Darien sends Wilton to third straight loss
A five-day layoff due to the weather only postponed a third straight loss for the Wilton High baseball team.
While the Warriors avoided another big first-inning rally (key to their previous two defeats), they were unable to prevent Darien from three-run sorties in both the third and fifth innings during the Blue Wave's 6-3 win Thursday afternoon in Wilton.
Starting pitcher Ethan Leinberger (2-2) fared well in the first and second innings, holding Darien scoreless while striking out five batters. He ran into trouble in the third, after issuing a one-out walk to the Blue Wave's ninth hitter, Alec Stephens. Mac McLean followed with a base hit to center and Henry Williams’ RBI base hit to right scored Stephens.
Leinberger got the second out on a pop-up and looked to be out of the inning with a ground ball to the right side. But a poor throw allowed one run to score and enabled Glen Fay to come to the plate. The Blue Wave left fielder (three hits, three RBIs) laced a single to center for the third run of the inning.
In the top of the fifth, Leinberger met his Waterloo. He had been pitching solidly, keeping Wilton in the game despite its physical and mental lapses on defense. But Leinberger walked the inning’s lead-off hitter, Williams, and then yielded a single to Liam McLaughlin. A balk really put the pressure on, but a strikeout gave Wilton flickering hopes of scoreless escape.
Fay doused those with a two-run single to left. Nick Sheehan replaced Leinberger and got a second out, leaving Nick Briganti at first base. He stole second and came home on Ben Olson’s single to left when the Warrior relay man inadvertently cut off Luca Wentzel’s throw to the plate.
“We just made too many mental mistakes. They killed us,” said Wilton assistant coach Donnie Heibeck. “Too many times we were caught out of position. We just weren’t thinking out there today. You can’t get away with that when you’re playing this level of competition.”
Meanwhile, the Warriors hitters had to contend with Williams. The Blue Wave ace threw three perfect opening innings, striking out six of the nine batters he faced. Wilton got to him for a pair of base hits in the fourth but nothing came of them.
The Warriors did break through in the fifth. With one out, Sam Strazza and Chris Tienken walked. A solid single through the right side by Andrew Travers loaded the bases. Wentzel then ripped a two-out, two-run single to left, bringing on reliever Carson Drake, who got the third out.
Wilton was back at it in the sixth. Cole Judelson’s base hit, Strazza's two-out walk, and Tienken’s RBI shot to right drew the Warriors within 6-3. And when Sheehan managed a scoreless top of the seventh with help from his catcher Judelson, who gunned down a Darien runner attempting to steal, Wilton had a shot.
But Drake needed only five pitches to put the Warriors away in the bottom of the seventh, dropping Wilton to 5-3 overall (3-3 FCIAC) and lifting Darien to 6-4 (5-2 FCIAC).
“It’s just a lot of little things,” said Wilton head coach, Tim Eagen. “In our last at-bat we’re behind by three runs. We’ve told our guys to be aggressive at the plate, but when you’re behind in your last at-bat you need to take a couple of pitches.
“Things like that went on the whole game,” added Eagen.“We are a young team, and right now we’re showing our young-ness. And it always seems that our inexperience shows up at the worst times. We’re just not good enough to come from behind all the time.”
Notes: On the brighter side for Wilton, senior Kyle Phillips made his first varsity appearance this season (after recovering from injury) as the designated hitter against Darien. He didn’t look that rusty, either, making contact and notching a single in four plate appearances.